Casino, Gym & Double Beds – Virgin Atlantic’s Grand A380 Plans That Never Were

If there is one airline that we’d have loved to have seen with an Airbus A380, it is Virgin Atlantic. The carrier had ambitious plans for its fleet of six A380s, such as installing a casino, gymnasium and double beds. Would any of these ideas actually work in real life? Let’s have a look.

Virgin A380
Virgin Atlantic A380 mockup. Photo: Airbus

The Virgin Atlantic Airbus A380 order

Originally, Virgin Atlantic placed an order for six Airbus A380s (with options for a further six) to be delivered in 2006. The order would have been worth £1.5 billion (£2.25 billion or $2.77 billion in today’s money).

Virgin wanted to use the aircraft to fly from London to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Sydney, and New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. The airline was also pushing Airbus to make a stretched version of the A380 that could carry over 1,000 passengers.

Virgin quietly delayed the order in 2007 and then, when Delta Air Lines bought into the company, it changed track, focusing on the Airbus A350-1000 instead.

Since then, Virgin has officially canceled its A380 ambitions and made the A350 its new flagship product. Fellow Simple Flying writer Jo was lucky enough to travel on its new business class offering.

But what could the Virgin Atlantic A380 have looked like? Simple Flying took a moment to dive back in time to the original press releases and build you a picture of what might have been.

Virgin Atlantics ambitious A380 plans

As you might have guessed from the topic of this article, Virgin had some quite out of the box ideas for its A380 fleet.

Speaking to Bloomberg in 2007, Sir Richard Branson said,

“It’s surprising how little people have done, We will have bars, showers and, in countries where we’re allowed to, roulette and blackjack. We’ll certainly have double beds, private rooms, masseuses and manicurists.”

Onboard there was to be a casino with not only slot machines but also roulette and blackjack table games. This would be because as an aircraft traveled through international airspace, gambling would be legal.

The casino could have looked something like this. Photo: Air Jet Designs

This concept creates a whole bunch of problems, such as what currency would be played, who the dealers would be (special flight attendants or crew like the shower attendants onboard Etihad). Plus, you would need security on board to watch the money and/or tables for any cheaters.

It would also likely be restricted to Upper Class passengers and be part of the planned bar lounge.

As crazy as the idea sounds, if targeted towards passengers who were so inclined the airline could become incredibly popular on certain routes.

Linking in the casino with the double beds and private rooms, Sir Richard Branson suggested to media in 2005 that his passengers would have “two chances to get lucky”.

Virgin loft
The ‘loft’ that is now aboard Virgin’s A350. Photo: Virgin

The aircraft was also planned to have a retail section, something that Korean Air would eventually roll-out for its A380s.

Korean shopping duty free
Duty-free shopping onboard the A380. Photo: Korean Air

Bottom line

In the end, Virgin Atlantic would not go ahead with the A380 but rival British Airways would. This put Sir Richard Branson’s closing remarks from the A380 reveal in 2005 in a rather ironic light.

“To be perfectly honest, it would be quite nice if BA were to buy some A380s as well – because it would support British aerospace and it would support Europe,” 

What do you think of this? Would you have liked to have flown onboard the Virgin Atlantic A380s? Let us know in the comments.